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Vengeance looked back at the unpleased face of Rancor. Sweat poured from the boys head as he swung his machete wildly at the dense brush around him. The depths of the Amazon rain forest could try the patience of any man. Andre’s short fuse burned away hours ago, after the two men left their jeep to make their way in to the forest on foot.
“I apologize if you thought this was going to be some kind of pleasure cruise. Our job isn’t always pretty, or easy, or fun. Sometimes we have to get in to the field and make the trek. If the Gentleman’s message is true, his family’s prison could be the lead we need to find out my past.”
“Yeah, yeah. Doesn’t make this jungle suck any less.”
Vengeance stopped short in his tracks. He looked up in to the dense trees above them.
“What is it?”
Vengeance held up his fist and closed it tightly, the signal for silence. Rancor dropped in to a battle ready stance. His eyes followed Vengeance’s upward. He listened but could not mark any distinctive sounds in the random noise of the jungle.
Vengeance yanked Rancor to the ground just as two tiny blades flew past his head. They tipped the hands of a mutilated spider monkey. The monkey’s front limbs, left eye, and ears were all replaced with some kind of cybernetic implants. And he wasn’t alone.
A half dozen of the cyborg monkeys dropped out of the trees behind the first. Each cyborg featured a unique set of mechanical components, but they all possessed some kind of bladed weapon. Vengeance knew the creatures could easily shred their victims in a matter of seconds if given the chance.
He didn’t plan on giving them that chance.
He leaped to his feet and hurled a trio of throwing blades at an offending primate. They easily severed two bladed limbs, effectively leaving the spider monkey without an offense.
He turned and threw a reinforced boot in to the air. It caught the side of a monkey as it dropped down towards him. The tiny cyborg smacked in to the side of a tree before sliding to the ground.
Rancor was on his feet now. He put his back towards Vengeance’s own. Even with cybernetic enhancements, they would find it hard to get past their screen of protection.
With a combination of V-blades, punches, and kicks, Vengeance and Rancor struck down one cyborg after another. Even with their weaponry and hatred, the spider monkeys were little challenge to the trained fighters.
Rancor grabbed the final monkey by the throat and hurled it back in to the forest. It crashed in to several intertwined branched and dropped like a rock to the ground.
“What was that? Robot freaking monkeys?”
Vengeance nodded. “You get used to a lot of strange things in this business. Come on, we have to find this base. Be on the lookout for any more traps.”
With the sudden sound of decompressed air, a canister dropped down on to the jungle floor. A noxious yellow fog poured out of it.
“Gas masks!” Vengeance’s words came a second too late. Two more canisters dropped in to the field, already trailing more yellow fumes.
Rancor broke down in to a coughing fit beside him. Vengeance brought his own gas mask up, but it was already too late. He felt his lungs burn as the gas entered his lungs. He coughed violently in to the mask before he lurched forward.
A man in a red and black hazmat suit walked in to the clearing. He wore a large tank on his back which connected to some kind of spray launcher in his right hand.
Gasman, Vengeance thought. With that one loss word, the gas overcame him. Reality faded to black.
February 1954. It seemed like every week another mad scientist, Communist demagogue, or alien overlord popped out of the woodwork on a daily basis. This time around it was a madman of the scientist variety. Danton Darwin, though no relation to the originator of evolutionary theory, modeled himself after Charles, right down to the antiquated beard. Unlike his inspiration, Danton thought the human race a hindrance on natural evolution. He made the decision to do whatever possible to rid the planet of the human race.
His latest insane scheme involved channeling the carbon dioxide produced by the large rain forest of the Amazon to fuel a neutron death ray that would wipe out all human life in North America. When I learned about it from some easily persuaded flunkies, I booked a charter to Brazil in pursuit.
Darwin was decades ahead of his time in the sciences. But when it came to covering his tracks, he was woefully ignorant. I easily tracked him to a small facility on the edge of the rain forest.
I underestimated him. I never expected he would set a trap.
Darwin waited for me with a gun right out of a UFO picture. He cackled his insane laugh as he bathed me in the weapon’s green rays.
I writhed in pain. My body itched and then it burned. My bones turned to jelly. My entire body contracted as the ray seemed to burn me from the inside out.
I tried to move but my body was stuck in place. I closed my eyes and fought the pain. It was no use. I couldn’t overcome it. I couldn’t fight it.
The pain suddenly stopped short. I gasped for oxygen. My nerve endings still burned with memory of my agony. I opened my eyes.
A massive black book, four times my size, stood in front of me. I wondered if Darwin created some kind of shrink ray.
The evil scientist reached down and grabbed me by my tail. I howled in pain as he lifted me in the air. I yelled at him but all that came out of my mouth were squeaks and squeals.
Darwin leaned in close. Two massive lenses covered his eyes. “Thank you, crimefighter. You have proven my portable devolution ray works perfectly!”
He yanked my body to one side. I stared in to the highly polished side of his death ray. I could see my reflection. I was no longer human.
He turned me in to a capuchin monkey.
I was a monkey.
It was even more humiliating than it sounds.
Darwin turned again and I flew around him by my tail. The constant pull on my newest limb sent waves of pain coursing all the way up my spine. The mad doctor shoved me in to the hands of one of his red-costumed lackey.
“Throw him in one of the cages. Let him watch as I destroy all the humanity he seems to love so much.”
The lackey grunted. The man walked with a slight hunch and his long hairy arms dangled nearly to the floor. The heavy brow, small ears, and large mouth only reinforced my suspicion that his men were apes, transformed through a similar process to my own.
Whatever the case, I couldn’t fight their strength as they carried me across the room. He quickly shoved me with one hand in a small cage designed specifically for a monkey. He quickly hopped away from the cage, almost as though scared of it. It seemed I would be replacing him in his prison.
Danton Darwin set out to make final preparations for his death ray. He couldn’t help but gloat as he hopped about the massive cylinder.
“You were a fool to come here, Vengeance. You couldn’t help but fail when combating my obviously superior intellect. I have unlocked the true animal intelligence of the world. No human can compare with a brain advanced beyond anything they could ever imagine!”
He continued to rant about his obvious superiority. But my attention was elsewhere.
I watched her slip in through a small exhaust grate on the roof of the building. She was short, less than five feet in height. Her hair was jet black with a streak of silver that fell down over her eyes. She moved with a predator’s grace as she dropped down on the top of the massive carbon dioxide funnel in the middle of the room.
She raised her head and cocked it to the side. As she looked up at her means of entrance, she curled her lips in to an O. She whistled four sharp notes, not unlike that of a bird.
I didn’t know quite how close that thought was to the truth until several seconds later. Birds flooded through the rooftop grate. They could only come in two or three at a time, but they moved at great speed. Within ten seconds, the roof of the chamber was filled by tropical birds of all kinds.
A toucan flew down to the cage holding me. With a strike of its beak, the lock shattered. As it flew off to join the other birds, I shoved my way out of the cage.
The birds worked in groups to create havoc for Darwin and his evolved minions. Monkey or not, I knew I had the chance to stop the death ray once and for all.
I scurried from the cage. My movements as a capuchin seemed almost natural. I ran across the floor, leaped up on to an exhaust port on the death ray itself, and hauled my tiny body up.
The exhaust port led directly in to the cannon’s interior. I started down the long tunnel to the base of the machine. I knew that if Darwin broke free of the birds and activated the ray, I would be reduced to ash in seconds. It was a chance I was more than willing to take. Darwin couldn’t be allowed to succeed in his plans.
The birds did their jobs admirably. The ray remained inert as I reached the collection of cylinders and pressure tubes at the base of the gun. I wasted no time in lashing out at them.
The death ray’s innards were clearly not made to be attacked from within. I made short work of the pressure tubes even at my smaller size. The cylinders took a little more work to damage, but several running blows bent them beyond repair.
I found another exhaust port directly above me. I pushed the thin grate protecting it away and climbed back out of the ray. I could see the doctor’s minions were either gone or cowering on the floor as the birds swooped down around them.
The jungle girl stood astride Danton Darwin. She held a stone knife to his throat.
I ran over to the girl and squealed my excitement at her arrival. She pounded the flat of her blade against Darwin’s head in response.
Her words again came like bird song. “Ri Ma.” I understood she meant it as her name. She pointed past me. I turned to see the devolution device lying on the ground next to the disabled death ray.
Even with tiny monkey hands I was able to reverse the device’s settings. One blast later and I was a very naked man standing inside that laboratory. I found my costume and donned it.
By the time I finished Ri-Ma was long gone. I moved to secure Darwin and dismantle his death ray.
Vengeance and Rancor awoke upside down. A rope wrapped around their torsos held them together, back to back. The far end of the rope dangled over a high tree branch. Beneath them, the waters of the Amazon churned around the remains of a cyborg spider monkey.
He noticed his cape and belt were gone and with them his weapons and supplies. Their enemy knew them at least somewhat.
Vengeance looked to shore. He saw the other end of the rope secured to the tree from which they dangled. Gasman held the far end of the cord.
He knew he fought Gasman at least once in the past, though the recollection seemed to avoid his skull. He knew enough about the man to be wary of both his wide variety of poisons and his pension for slow painful deaths.
Gasman’s mask hung on his back. Though African American, his skin was stained with blotches of orange do to his extended exposure to dangerous chemicals.
“When they paid me to watch this place, I never thought I would have you stumble in to my lap. I honestly thought you were dead, Vengeance. Not that it matters, huh? I get to remedy that right now.”
“You’re a fool,” Vengeance said. “You could have killed us after the monkey attack. All you’ve done is given us a chance to escape.”
“Not while I’m watching you. I plan on savoring both of your deaths. I think the piranhas will quite enjoy their meal.”
Vengeance felt Rancor struggle to break his bonds behind him. Vengeance lowered his voice as he spoke to his partner. “Calm, be calm. We will get out of this.”
“How exactly do you plan to do that?”
“Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”
“Those sound like famous last words.”
“Hush. Just listen to the jungle.”
“Listen to the—”
Rancor fell silent behind him. Vengeance looked up to the trees. He listened for a familiar sound.
The high, long call of a bird pierced through all the other sounds of the jungle. Vengeance smirked. He knew it was no bird.
But birds answered the call. Hundreds of flapping wings filled the sky from all directions. They seemed to form out of the very sky as they all swooped down towards the water below. Within seconds, the birds surrounded Vengeance and Rancor.
The ropes around their arms quickly disintegrated as bird after bird struck them.
“Get ready to swing!” Vengeance hoped Rancor could hear his words over the caws and the flap of wings all around them.
He felt the rope suddenly swing his way in answer. He ripped his hands free of his bonds and joined Rancor in a swing. The flying birds completely obscured Gasman from view as they swung back and forth in larger and larger arcs.
The water below still churned, but each swing took them closer to the shore. Vengeance eyed the worn edge of the river’s side.
“Release on three,” he said. “One.” The rope swung back down from a high point. “Two.” They came back up in to another arc.
“Three!” Vengeance and Rancor both released their grips just as the rope arced up and over towards the ground. The momentum took them the last few feet to the shore’s edge. They crashed in to a heap.
The birds flapped up and away. Vengeance regained his footing just in time to see Gasman from across the river.
He hurled a V-blade straight in to his foe’s gas gun. It sliced head on in to the barrel. Even at this distance, he could see the blade perfectly bisected the weapon.
The blade exploded and took the gas gun with it. The force of the explosion sent Gasman flying back towards heavier forestation. He crashed back first in to a tree.
Vengeance drew another V-Blade, but Gasman didn’t move. He waited a few more moments before returning the blade to his cape.
He turned to Rancor. “Check the GPS. We can’t be far now.”
Read the Notes on this chapter of Out For Vengeance!